Skip to content

The Doors Of Old London

March 18, 2022
by the gentle author

The door to Parliament

Look at all the doors where the dead people walked in and out. These are the doors of old London. Some are inviting you in and some are shutting you out. Doors that lead to power and doors that lead to prison. Doors that lead to the parlour, doors that lead to the palace, and doors that lead to prayer.

These are the doors that I found among hundreds of glass slides once used for magic lantern shows by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society, many more than a century old, and housed today at the Bishopsgate Institute.

Looking at life through a doorway, we are all either on the way in or on the way out. Like the door to your childhood home that got sold long ago, each one pictured here is evidence of the transient nature of existence, reminding you that you cannot go back through the portal of time.

Yet there is a powerful enigma conjured by these murky pictures of old doors, most of which will never open again. Like the pauper or the lost soul condemned to wander the streets, we cannot enter to learn what lies behind these doors of old London. But a closed door is an invitation to the imagination and we can wonder and dream, entering those hidden spaces in our fancy.

London has always been a city of doors, inviting both the curiosity and the suspicion of the passerby. In each street, there is a constant anticipation of people popping out, regurgitated onto the street by the building, and the glimpse to be snatched of the interior before the door closes again.

I cannot resist the notion that every door contains a mystery and all I need is a skeleton key. Then we can set out to explore as we please, going in one door and out another, until we have passed through all the doors of old London.


The entrance to the Carpenters’ Hall

The doors of Lambeth Palace

Door in the cloisters in Westminster Abbey

The door to the chamber of Little Ease at the Tower of London.

In St Benet’s Church, Paul’s Wharf.

Back door of 33 Mark Lane

Back door to Lancaster House.

In Crutched Friars.

14 Cavendish Sq.

The door to 10 Downing St

39a Devonshire St.

The door to the House of Lords

Wren doorway, Kensington Palace.

The door to Westminster Abbey

St Dunstan’s in the West

The entrance to Christ Church, Greyfriars.

The door to St Bartholomew’s, Smithfield

Temple Church

The Watchhouse, St Sepulcre’s, Smithfield.

Door by Inigo Jones at St Helen’s Bishopsgate.

Prior Bolton’s Door at St Bartholomew the Great.

At the Tower of London

Glass slides courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

You may also like to take a look at

The Nights of Old London

The Ghosts of Old London

The Dogs of Old London

The Signs of Old London

The Markets of Old London

The Pubs of Old London

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Sue permalink
    March 18, 2022

    Magnificent work in these doorways, love the vast array to be seen walking around London and wondering what lies beyond them. ?

  2. March 18, 2022

    A wonderful article, G.A. I love the imagery your words conjure in my mind! What a treasure trove the Bishopsgate Institute is.

    I’m particularly intrigued by the first photo, not the door to Parliament, but the next one of the two –16th, 17th-century?–doors. The way the photo ends abruptly, leaving nothing but a black void on the left side of the frame; it is as if these are doors to nowhere, or to a world other than our own.

  3. gkbowood permalink
    March 18, 2022

    Wonder what became of those magnificent gas lamps in the second photo!? I bet those really lit up the entrance, probably blindingly so, given their size and proximity to the doorway.

  4. March 23, 2022

    The fourth image down is inside the old Brewers’ Hall which was destroyed on 29 December 1940. There is a clearer photo on the Company’s website:

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS